The fight against proposed changes to the basic rules that define net neutrality is not playing out like some may have expected. Since Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced last month that he would consider altering the basic structure of the Internet, there has been no SOPA-style outrage with companies blacking out their own websites alongside individuals decrying arguably unfair legislation. No; that has not been the case.
Instead, there has only been a large wave of individuals speaking out against how an Internet “fast lane” will prop up larger corporations at the expense of startups. This wave is important, as are all issues that face an affected public, but what news organizations have been reporting, in addition to the reality of the proposed legislation, is that large corporations themselves were not getting involved in the fight. That is, they were not heavily involved until this week. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
“After years of setbacks, the supporters of “net neutrality” have begun a full-throated counterattack this week. On Wednesday, 150 tech companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Netflix asked the Federal Communications Commission to preserve a core principle that has guided the Internet’s exponential growth since its advent decades ago,” it says.
Wheeler and others in the FCC desire to create a tiered Internet that will allow organizations to pay for fast broadband services. For companies that provide streaming video or account transaction utilities, faster is better, and if they can afford it (which larger entities should be able) then they can pay ISPs like Comcast and Verizon a fee for preferred service. It is the opposite of a neutral Internet — the one we all presently operate within — where ISPs provide everything from cute cat pictures to sensitive, high-definition video all at the same rate. That neutrality is what the companies are fighting to protect.
“The Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them,” the companies say in their letter to the FCC. “If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet.”
The grave threat is that which undermines the ability of smaller companies to compete with larger ones. MIT Technology Review wrote recently that the changes could tip the hand of venture capitalists, making them less inclined to support startups in the realm of multimedia. And Senator Al Franken, as seen on the Business Insider, has directly spoken out against the creation of an Internet “fast lane.”
“Mom and Pop stores would lose even more ground to corporate giants. Big media companies would be able to get their version of the news to consumers faster,” he said.
Now with individual dissenters having the support of corporate entities, a fate that once was moving toward the creation of a new Internet is now more uncertain. It often requires a critical mass of individuals and large organizations to sway the opinion, drive, and power found in ruling bodies such as the FCC, and that mass may now be realized.
Even with this recent letter, however, The Christian Science Monitor says that Wheeler still intends to conduct a vote on the issue May 15 despite urging from Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to postpone. As per its own rules that bar input in the week before a vote, the FCC will not hear public opinion from any individuals or groups, including lobbyists, until the vote takes place this coming Wednesday.
Image courtesy of BGR